June 2006 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Don Dickey: Living the Wi-Life

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Don Dickey keeps an eye on his product, and his product keeps an eye out for you.

Dickey is vice president of logistics and customer support for WiLife, maker of the LukWerks Digital Video Surveillance System. The Draper, Utah, startup markets LukWerks to consumers and small business owners, who use the package of video cameras, motion detectors, and software to monitor their premises over the Internet.

Since last September, Dickey has worked with one logistics staff member and a third-party logistics provider to move LukWerks from a contract manufacturer in China to the 3PL's warehouse in Salt Lake, and then on to customers. WiLife sells the system through its own web site, the Herrington catalog, Radio Shack stores, Target.com, and other value-added resellers.

Dickey also supervises two employees who provide technical support by phone to LukWerks users.

After working at established organizations such as the U.S. Navy, Covey Leadership Center, and Iomega Corp., Dickey found a novel challenge when he came to WiLife: creating a supply chain operation from scratch.

"We have to document and create processes for logistics activities that are done on autopilot at more established companies," he says.

For example, Dickey and his colleagues are now wrestling with how to comply with trade regulations as WiLife expands globally. With his background in global logistics, Dickey should be more than equal to the challenges of international trade.

In the Navy, during Operation Desert Storm, Dickey served as battleforce logistics coordinator for a multinational fleet in the Persian Gulf. That meant supplying 70 ships with "lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries, as well as bombs, jet fuel, and parts—plus mail," he says. Delivering blizzards of letters from well-wishers, addressed to "any sailor," posed a particular challenge.

At Iomega, Dickey played a key role in ramping up a factory in Penang, Malaysia, that made Zip, Jaz, and Ditto drives. He was charged with bringing production from zero to a peak of 1 million drives per month.

It wasn't always smooth sailing. Once, he recalls, production of Jaz drives nearly came to a halt because the plant ran out of screws.

"The screws were showing up in our inventory system, when in fact they'd probably been dropped on the floor, swept up, and thrown away," Dickey says. "We had more screws on order, but they were scheduled to arrive about six days later than we needed them. We tried to push the supplier to expedite, or find alternate solutions."

Bad fortune brought good luck, of a sort, to Iomega. A series of fires in Indonesia spewed so much smoke that airports throughout the region were forced to close. "The whole logistics infrastructure in Southeast Asia was impacted," Dickey says.

The question of where to find screws was suddenly irrelevant. Even if Iomega found more product, "we couldn't lift it out and we couldn't bring it in, because the airports were shut," he says.

Lesson learned?

"Pay attention, down to the last detail," Dickey says.

Iomega changed its process after that incident. "If an item was on the production floor, we didn't count on it being available. We made sure we had enough inventory in the storeroom," he says.

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

I volunteer at the county jail a few nights a week, teaching Bible studies.

First web site you look at in the morning?

I usually look at either our 3PL's site or our own to determine our shipping activity: Did everything that was expected to ship go out? What is lined up to ship today?

Ideal dinner companion?

Jesus.

What's in your briefcase?

My laptop, a bottle of water, and today, resumes because I'm trying to attract job candidates. I also carry a few trade magazines for when I have time to catch up on my reading.

Business philosophy?

I always try to make logistics invisible to sales and finance managers. I want product to appear magically right when they need it. It takes a lot of work to accomplish that, but ensuring that logistics is not a continuing problem is my goal.

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